Wednesday: CapFriendly reports that the deal carries a 10-team no-trade clause and will pay Driedger $2.5MM in 2021-22, $3.5MM in 2022-23, and $4.5MM in 2023-24.
Monday: It appears as though we may now know the first member of the Seattle Kraken’s NHL roster for 2021-22. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman is reporting that the team is finalizing a three-year contract with Florida Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger. The contract carries a $3.5MM cap hit and is for three years, carrying him through the 2023-24 season.
The Seattle Kraken are indeed exempt from this current transaction freeze, meaning the deal could become official before Wednesday’s expansion draft. The Kraken have this period to speak with pending unrestricted free agents and agree on contracts if possible. Driedger, one of those pending UFAs, will count as the team’s selection from the Florida Panthers for expansion purposes.
Driedger will come to the Kraken and serve as one-half of what’s likely to be a formidable goalie duo. With names like Carey Price, Ben Bishop, Kaapo Kahkonen, Braden Holtby, Vitek Vanecek, and others as potential selections for Seattle, Driedger can expect 30-50 starts as part of a tandem situation.
It’s a chance for Driedger’s career to really take off on the West Coast. He’s emerged as an extremely capable netminder over the last two seasons in Florida, but his appearances have been limited due to the presence of Sergei Bobrovsky. Now, with the upstart Spencer Knight securing a spot for next season, Driedger wasn’t expected to return to the Panthers. Posting a remarkable 21-8-4 record and .931 save percentage across 34 Florida starts, his rise to prominence has been compared by some to that of the St. Louis Blues’ Jordan Binnington. But without a Stanley Cup Final run under his belt, Driedger obviously doesn’t carry the same clout. However, he’s shown the ability to repeat near-elite performance across two different seasons, albeit in a small sample size. Seattle keeps the cap hit low here, ensuring that the deal could still be fair value even if Driedger doesn’t quite repeat his Florida success.
Regardless, it’s an important move for the Kraken and general manager Ron Francis. It’s entirely possible that they’ve inked their starting netminder for Game 1 of the regular season, an exciting prospect to think about for the expansion team.